A popular Youtuber who thought shoulder pain brought on by a rare form of cancer was caused by an arm wrestle with his father has died after failing to get medical treatment when the Covid-19 lockdown began.
Fit and healthy David Macmillan, better known on YouTube as Pirate Dog, started feeling a slight ache in his shoulder as early as January and tried to book an appointment with his GP when it lasted until February.
Unable to see his doctor, the 30-year-old from Northumberland instead saw a nurse practitioner, who prescribed painkillers and referred him to a physiotherapist.
But the school kitchen worker, who had 250,000 subscribers on YouTube, never got an appointment, as the country was plunged into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He was later diagnosed with rare mediastinal germ cell cancer, and died this month, days before his home county was plunged into Tier Two of the Government’s coronavirus lockdown scheme.
His mother, Dianne Whinn, said: ‘I just think if someone had physically examined him we might have found out something sooner.’
David Macmillan, 30, died from a rare form of cancer after the Covid-19 pandemic delayed his chance to see a physiotherapist, his mother Dianne Whinn (pictured together), thinks he could have had been diagnosed earlier, if not for delays brought on by lockdown
Mr Macmillan began noticing a soreness in his shoulder after returning home after spending New Year’s Eve with his father in Scotland.
His mother urged him to see a doctor at the end of February, after the pain persisted.
Unable to get a GP’s appointment, Mr Macmillan was seen by a nurse, who advised him to take paracetamol and Ibuprofen and referred him for physiotherapy.
‘That was the middle of March,’ his mother explained.
‘We were waiting for his physio appointment and by the middle of April nothing had happened.’
By Easter, Scottish-born Mr Macmillan had lost two stone, and his mother said he was out of breath just from walking to his nearby shops.
Doctors gave David, better known on YouTube as Pirate Dog, an 89 per cent chance of surviving the rare form of cancer he had likely had since birth, but he died just four months after starting treatment
Ms Whinn said: ‘Then suddenly everything fell into place for me. My first thought was it could be pneumonia.
‘Covid wasn’t even in the mix for me because this had been going on for so long.’
After insisting he saw his GP the following day, Mr Macmillan was sent to Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington, where a tumour was discovered in his chest.
It was diagnosed as a cancerous germ cell tumour in his chest, with doctors optimistically predicting he had an 89 per cent survival rate.
Doctors are not certain about how germ cell tumours in the abdomen form, but it is thought the cancer develops from very early cells that became misplaced during development in the womb.
David Macmillan’s YouTube channel, Pirate Dog, boasted 250,000 subscribers, he would leave an emotional message thanking them after he received his diagnosis, telling them the channel was bigger than he ‘ever dreamed’
The kitchen worker at Morpeth First School underwent chemotherapy, but doctors decided this month there was nothing more they could do.
Mr Macmillan was was put on a ventilator to help him breathe at the end of September, but he died in his mother’s arms on October 8.
David was placed on a ventilator at the end of September, but died on October 8
Ms Whinn, a trained nurse, said: ‘It’s quite possible he’s had it all his life, but because he was so fit and healthy it was a silent killer. I just think if someone had physically examined him we might have found out something sooner.
‘Throughout this whole thing he was so positive.
‘He said he was going to fight all the way. He said he was going to get better, and he was going to go back to work.’
As the treatment began to take its toll, Mr Macmillan he told his YouTube subscribers why he had not been uploading many videos recently.
In a post on his channel, he wrote: ‘My health has took a turn for the worse. I’ve had a lot of muscular pain in my chest and back which I recently found out to be a tumour in my chest.
‘I am currently in hospital under going chemotherapy surrounded by amazing health workers who I cannot thank enough and hopefully I will beat this in the coming months.
‘Thank you to all my subscribers for making this channel bigger than I ever dreamed. I hope to be back.’
Ms Whinn pleaded with young men to take their health seriously, adding: ‘If you have got any concerns doctors would rather see you and say you are fine than miss something.
‘Young men often think they are invincible.’
Mr Macmillan’s death comes as researchers warn lockdown’s toll on cancer patients will be felt for years.
If a tumour is spotted early, it can often be dealt with quickly. But if it spreads there is often nothing a doctor can do.
The suspension of cancer screenings during lockdown is likely to lead to a surge of cases caught too late.
NHS Digital estimates there were 26.7million fewer GP appointments in England between March and August this year than in the same period in 2019 – down from 146.2million to 119.5million
GP appointments also plummeted and between April and August urgent cancer referrals fell by 350,000 in England, according to Cancer Research UK.
Treatment was also put on hold – with chemotherapy procedures falling by between 45 per cent and 66 per cent in April alone.
Academics at UCL calculated that within a year 6,270 extra Britons will have died of cancer in England owing to the pandemic. Hospitals are bracing themselves for a leap in cancer referrals which could add to the impact of a second wave.
Doctors trying to learn more about rare mediastinal germ cancer
According to Cancer Research UK, doctors are still trying to understand how germ cell cancer develops.
It’s understood that germ cells – which develop into sperm and eggs – can grow tumours, meaning the majority of cancer diagnoses are in the testicles or ovaries.
Mediastinal germ cell tumours are found in the centre of the chest, but doctors are not sure how the growths occur there.
According to Cancer Research UK, there are two theories surrounding the disease, these are:
- The cancer develops from very early cells that became misplaced during our development in the womb.
- The cancer started in the testicle or ovary and spread at a very early stage, but the original cancer has either disappeared or is too small to find.
Symptoms of a cancerous mediastinal tumour have symptoms might include:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest
- A cough
- Raised temperature
- Weight loss
- Night sweats